The U.S. Congress is considering a new law called the DRIVE-SAFE Act. This Act has been proposed in response to a national shortage of truck drivers, and would allow teen truckers to drive big-rigs across state lines. Allowing younger truckers on the road may help businesses move goods across the country, but it could have a serious impact on safety. Due to their large size, big rigs are difficult to maneuver, and are inherently dangerous. Inexperienced drivers behind the wheel of a tractor trailer weighing up to 80,000 pounds could lead to more serious truck accidents and fatalities.
Under current law, commercial truck drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 are not permitted to cross state lines. This rule was promulgated more than 20 years ago by the U.S. Department of Transportation to make our roads safer. Studies indicated that drivers under the age of 21 were more likely to be involved in motor vehicle accidents.
Experience is a key factor in safely transporting goods in 18-wheelers. There is no other way to learn how to handle unexpected situations and challenges, other than putting in the hours on the road. According to the president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, truck drivers that are 20 years old and under are six times more likely to be involved in an accident that causes at least one fatality. In addition to a lack of experience, they also may be more prone to taking risks behind the wheel. Some say this is a gambit to help trucking companies take advantage of cheap labor. Moreover, it comes at a high cost to the American public, who would be exposed to a known greater risk when travelling and commuting every day.
However, others say that circumstances have changed since the last time this law was proposed (and failed to pass), because more goods need to be delivered today. According to some industry lobbyists, if the costs of labor are not kept down, they will be passed on to the American consumer. They also note that drivers between the ages of 18 and 21 are already out there on the roads, they just are not allowed to cross state lines. This is questionable, however, because long interstate hauls can be some of the most dangerous due to driver fatigue.
The new law would require “underage” drivers to undergo extensive training in an apprenticeship program—being chaperoned by an experienced driver. Trucks they drive over state lines must be capped at 65 miles per hour, and fitted with a dash cam.
If you have been injured by an inexperienced, distracted, or reckless truck driver, the New Jersey truck accident lawyers at Eichen Crutchlow Zaslow, LLP can help you to obtain maximum compensation for your injuries. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call us at 732-777-0100 or contact us online. With offices located in Edison, Toms River, and Red Bank, we represent victims of trucking accidents throughout New Jersey.